A group of Lower Mount Bethel Township residents is asking to the Board of Supervisors to derail a proposal by Con Agra Foods to expand the train tracks into its Martins Creek Facility.
Neighboring residents of the Route 611 Con Agra plant told the Board of Supervisors Monday night that plans by the company to add two sets of rail tracks would compound existing problems associated with train traffic, including excessive noise late at night and air pollution from idling diesels.
Residents of the adjoining 17-home row home development and adjacent trailer park claim the company has been doing site work associated with the proposed rail-line expansion and that company officials have told them the project is “a done deal.”
But members of the Board of Supervisors said the proposal is not a done deal, and that Con Agra will need to receive final approval from the board first. Supervisors said Con Agra has submitted plans to the township Planning Commission, which will be charged with conducting a zoning review and making a recommendation to the Supervisors. Following the review, the Supervisors will decide if the project can move forward.
The proposed rail-line expansion is expected to be discussed during the Sept. 24 Planning Commission meeting.
During Monday night’s Supervisors meeting, residents objected to several aspects of the rail operation at Con Agra.
Resident Nancy Cassidy said trains are operating late into the night, well past the times the company had told them daily train operations would cease. Cassidy said diesel engines have been illegally idling for extended periods of time and that the accumulation of grain dust from passing train carts is a mounting problem.
“I understand that Con Agra is in an industrial zone and has certain rights to do business,” she said. “But I think Con Agra at the same time can make it a little more comfortable for all of us.”
No representatives of Con Agra were in attendance at Monday night’s meeting.
While residents offered plenty of input during Monday night’s meeting, Supervisors offered few specific comments about the project since they said they have yet receive a formal application from Con Agra.
Since the matter will first be reviewed by the Planning Commission, Supervisor Howard Klein urged residents to appear before that board. Klein said Con Agra recently provided notice of its intentions to the township’s Environmental Advisory Council during a meeting held at the company’s Martins Creek facility about six weeks ago.
“I said you better tell all the neighbors what’s being proposed because I don’t them to be surprised,” Klein said he told Con Agra officials. A second meeting open to residents was held last week in which Con Agra’s tentative plans were presented.
Whether the rail-line expansion is ultimately approved will come down to zoning, according to township officials. If the Planning Commission determines the proposal meets all current zoning laws, Supervisors said they would have to approve the project. If it is determined the proposal would require zoning waivers, Supervisors said the picture changes considerably.
“As long as they (Con Agra) requests waivers, the township can play ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’” Supervisor John Mauser said to the residents.
Klein said one immediate action residents can take is to file a complaint with the township zoning officer, who would be charged with investigating any claims of possible violations at the plant.